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  • 8/9/2019 Seminarski knjizevnost 1


    Technique of stream of consciousness in James

    Joyces A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    and Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway


    Introduction..1James Joyce..6

    Virginia Woolf.13


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    Techniques of stream of consciousness in James Joyce

    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and

    Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway

    If experience consists of impressions, it may be said that impressions are

    experience, just as they are the very air we breathe; this is what Henry James

    wrote in The Art of Fiction, and, to finish his thought, Experience is never

    limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge

    spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness,

    and catching every air-born particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the

    mind; and when it happens to be that of a man of genius it takes to itself the

    finest limits of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations.1

    I have chosen to start by quoting Henry James, because his

    forerunner of a modern psychological novel. His theory is the theory

    of central intelligence, through which he gives the whole story. He

    develops his famous theory of aspect, according to which, in a

    novel, as well as in reality, a life should be seen from one point of

    view, through the eyes of one single person, as long as that person is

    1 Henry James, The Art of Fiction, in Major Writers of America, New York 1962, vol. II, p.p. 255,257


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    not the omniscient writer, but a character in a novel. That character,

    therefore, is to be chosen very carefully, and should be given that kind

    of function in novel, that his/her role of a central intelligence is

    persuasive enough. According to that, a choice of such a character is a

    fatal one, because a success of the novel depends on readers ability to

    identify himself with the character, so that he can, through his

    consciousness experience what the character experiences.

    While Henry James treats the consciousness of a character as a

    static one, modern writers, as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, treat it

    as a process, as a stream of thoughts. The inner monologue, stream of

    consciousness, thus, becomes one of the nature artistic devices of a

    modern novel.

    Some thirty years after the publication of James novel The

    Portrait of a Lady, James Joyces A Portrait of the Artist as a Young

    Man and, nine years later, Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway are

    published. With those two writers, novel reaches completely different

    level of presentation, the level that no one before them dared to

    explore. Both of these novels are written after the First World War,

    after the great changes in the world. Those changes influenced human

    mind, and human experience, and the outcome of that can be seen in


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    the works of those two writers. The influence of French symbolists,

    the already assimilated Freudian theory of mans subconscious all

    that culminates in their attempt to pierce into ones mind and

    consciousness, and to find artistic way of presenting them to readers.

    The accepted tendencies in the novels at the beginning of the twentieth

    century are centered towards mans social life, and are occupied with

    social problems. And that is not what interests these two novelists.

    They search for new subjective values in man, as for the background

    for what they want to write about. In their search, they peer into the

    very soul of man, in order to find answers for those questions that the

    new social life and man in it poses before them. Ones inner self the

    vast infinity of ones thoughts, experiences, impressions are the very

    essence, the smallest part of which is seen on the surface, the smallest

    part of which is ones social self.

    Now, the main problem is how to deal with it in an artistic way.

    How to put ones thoughts on paper, because a writer is no more an

    omniscient author, he is not telling a story as it was with a traditional

    novel. He is supposed to give the contents of a consciousness, in

    which, and through which, the reality is realized. Therefore, there is

    no story, there is no plot anymore, in a traditional sense of the word;


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    no more descriptions no more characterizations. A reader is somehow

    in direct contact with a hero, he has to identify with him in order to

    see through his eyes, and his mind, and that is the only way he can

    realize him.

    Since human mind simultaneously receives infinite number of

    impressions, on several levels of conscious and subconscious, with

    various ways of receiving them starting from senses, through which

    it receives them directly, - to the tiniest processes of thought, the huge

    problem is how to present all that with language in which there is

    chronological sequence? William James says that a stream of

    consciousness is like a bird flying through the air and perching for a

    moment, then taking wing again actually what he says is that is

    impossible to catch the thought while it is in process, and thus it

    seems it is impossible to reproduce it. Presenting reality through

    consciousness means presenting it in the moment when the

    consciousness is experiencing it. That means that kind of story must

    be given in present time, which reduces the time in the stream of

    consciousness novel. Nevertheless, the span of time in ones mind

    cannot be restricted. Through his memories, remembrances, one can

    bring into life events from the past, and, in the same way, think about


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    future. Though, if a writer allows his hero to go through time without

    limits, that is, if the subjective time is not restricted, then the objective

    time must be, and since time and space are inseparable, that means

    that the free movement through time is restrained by restricted

    movement through space, and vice versa. With all this taken into

    account, one must admit that, after all, a writer who is presenting us

    the consciousness of his hero is himself the one who chooses what he

    is going to write about, which of those innumerable impressions he

    will present to us. If this is so, then, are the writers of stream of

    consciousness any closer to presenting a real life than those writers

    from the previous poques who describe by their own will something

    that they had imagined? The difference may not be so obvious, it is

    rather delicate, because these moments in objective time, described in

    details in their subjective time are the crucial moments in ones life,

    because they bring home some important truths. Thus, I might agree

    with some views about modern novel being very similar to a lyrical

    poem and thus called a lyrical novel.

    Before I go to the techniques of stream of consciousness used in

    Portrait and Mrs. Dalloway respectively, I would like to quote David



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    The truth about a character is the sum of his whole

    emotional experience, and that sum is always there, pervading

    and indeed constituting his consciousness. It is not therefore

    necessary to take a character through a series of testing

    circumstances to reveal the whole human truth bout him; the

    proper exploration of his consciousness at any given moment or

    in a very short space of time (say a simple day) could reveal all

    his history and all his potentialities. For on this view a man is

    his history, nothing is lost, and his reaction to every new event

    is conditioned by the sum of his reactions to all other events.

    Thus retrospect is of the very stuff of present consciousness and

    need not be formally introduced by set pieces of retrospect or

    by reported memory introduced by some such phrase as this

    remanded him of or he recalled that Development depth

    wise rather than lengthwise becomes the logical technique.2

    James Joyce

    2 David Daiches, A Critical History of English Literature, London, Secker & Warburg, 1963., vol. IV,

    p.p.188, 196


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    In his review of Portrait for The Nation , H. G. Wells agrees

    with other reviewers that Joyce seems to have a cloacal obsession ,

    but acknowledges that the the value of Mr. Joyces book has little to

    do with its incidental insanitary condition , going on to offer a

    reading of the novel that recognizes some of the novels more

    important innovations:

    Like some of the best novels in the world it is a story of

    an education It is a mosaic of jagged fragments that does

    altogether render with extreme completeness the growth of a

    rather secretive, imaginative boy in Dublin. The technique is

    startling, but on the whole, it succeeds. Like so many Irish

    writers from Sterne to Shaw Mr. Joyce is a bold experimentalist

    with paragraph and punctuation. He breaks away from scene to

    scene without a hint of the change of time and place; at the end

    he passes suddenly from the third person to the first3

    Joyce himself said in one of his conversations with the poet Jan

    Parandowsky Too much time has been spent in studying stars and

    neglecting human guts. 4

    3 James Joyce, A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1992, Preface

    by Jacqueline Belanger, p. 264Oto Bihalji Merin, Graditelji moderne misli u literaturi i umetnosti, Beograd, Prosveta, 1965, p.32 (my



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    Novels organizing principle, according to Richard Ellman is

    the gestation of a soul. Although Portrait traces the trajectory of

    Stephens growth into a fledging young artist, what is perhaps most

    important in the novel is not the linear progression of narrative, but the

    formation of Stephens consciousness. Joys is therefore interested in

    selecting only those experiences most crucial to Stephens

    development and for this reason the novel has an episodic and

    seemingly disjointed narrative jumping in the first chapter, for

    example, from his infancy to Stephens experiences at Conglowes to

    the Christmas dinner with little transitional matter. The novel is held

    together instead by the recurrence of certain symbols and light

    motives, the use epiphanies and the structural and thematic pattern of

    flight and fall.

    Joyce writes in the third person until the last two pages when he

    passes to the first person. The story is written ab ovo, that is, from

    the early childhood of the hero, Stephen Dedalus, from his first

    memories of himself and the world around him till his twentieth year.

    The language that Joyce uses, thus, gradually expands from the

    fragmentary diction of an infant on the first page through the


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    connected but limited range of expressions characteristics of a school

    boy to the sophistication of a fully articulate University student.

    Another characteristic of his techniques is that he breaks away

    from scene to scene without a hint of the change of time and place.

    For example, at the beginning we read about a little Dedalus who is

    listening to his father telling him a story and realizes that a nicens

    little boy named baby Tuckoo is he himself; and on the fallowing

    page, before we are aware of it, we see little Dedalus in the

    Conglowes Wood College. He also tends to suddenly quit something

    he is writing about and interpolates another episode, and then goes

    back to the previous one- like when we read about that schoolplay in

    which Stephen is taking a part, then, he shifts, and we read about

    Stephens arguing with his friends about his favourite writer and poet,

    and then, again, he goes back, and we are in the middle of that

    schoolplay. Joyce proceeds in this fashion through the whole novel.

    The narrative parts in the novel are followed by dialogues,

    dialogues by narrative parts. In those narrative parts, though they are

    written in the third person, we learn about Stephens thoughts,

    feelings, in those parts Joyce presents to us Stephens stream of

    consciousness. In the dialogues, we also learn about Stephen, but now


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    we can hear his voice, he is actually speaking his mind. Some of those

    dialogues are extraordinary, and if one reads them thoroughly, one can

    find answers to many questions that one poses to himself when he

    reads Joyce. Critics agree, more or less, that Portrait is an

    autobiographical novel, and that Joyce is actually writing about his

    own development as an artist. In his search of himself as an artist,

    Joyce adopts the view, developed in the late nineteenth century of the

    alienation of the artist. The artist had to be outside all conventions, all

    normal society, and this not only because those conventions and that

    society as Joyce found them in Dublin represented a paralysis, a

    dead set of gestures having no meaning in terms of genuine human

    experience, but because the artist must be outside society in order to

    be objective if he is to adopt the peculiar microcosms view which is

    the way Joyce solves the modern problem. For, instead of using quasi-

    poetic techniques persuasive to the reader while he reads, Joyce

    sought a method of presenting a limited tract of time and space as

    microcosm, as a small- scale model of human life, to which all

    attitudes are possible, depending on your own point of view. The

    artists function is thus not to render his own personal viewpoints, but

    to take all points of view and to construct in his fictional world an


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    enormous interrelating, punning, kaleidoscopic verbal universe,

    which, it might almost be said, presents everything as also everything

    else. Thus the artist, like the God of creation, remains within or

    behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of

    existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.5

    In Stephens development there are the moments of clarity and

    enlightenment. Those moments Joyce calls moments of epiphany,

    which are a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity

    of speech or gesture or in a memorable phrase of the mind itself. For

    Stephen and Joyce, the epiphany is the sudden revelation of the

    whatness of a thing, an image, sensually apprehended and emotionally

    vibrant, which communicates instantaneously the meaning of

    experience. As Dorothy Van Ghent observes, while minor

    epiphanies mark all the stages of Stephens understanding , major

    epiphanies, occurring at the end of each chapter, mark the chief

    revelations of the nature of his environment and of his destiny in it .

    Perhaps the best example of such a moment is at the close of the

    Chapter four, where Stephens witnessing of the girl wading in the sea

    gives rise to a moment of spiritual clarity that fills him with a sense of

    his artistic vocation, and he says,

    5 James Joyce, A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1992, p. 166


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    To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of

    life! A wild angel had appeared to him, the angel of mortal

    youth and beauty, an envoy from the fair courts of life, to throw

    open before him in an instant ecstasy the gates of all the ways

    of error and glory. On and on and on and on. 6

    And later on, when he is absolutely certain of his own destiny

    and artistic calling, he denounces,

    I will not serve that in which I no longer believe,

    whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church:

    and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as

    freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the

    only arms I allow myself to use- silence, exile and cunning.7

    Novel finishes at the beginning of Stephens new life,

    Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality

    of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated

    conscience of my race 8

    6ibid. p.1327ibid. p. 1918ibid. p. 213


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    Virginia Woolf

    What is meant by reality? , Virginia Woolf once asked and

    replied: It would seem to be something very erratic, very

    undependable- now to be found in a dusty road, now in a daffodil in a

    sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying


    Virginia Woolf displays a notable affinity with the

    Impressionist vision in her concern with communicating the texture of

    9Virginia Wolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Edition, 1996, Preface, p. 3


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    experience, and in the way in which she creates something of

    permanent relevance out of the apparently diverse and insignificant

    elements of a fleeting circumstance. She captures the essence of

    things with delicate artistry. E. M. Forster calls her a delicate and

    subtle artist in words who upheld aesthetic and spiritual values in a

    brutal materialistic age.10

    She writes in the third person, and uses in medias res

    technique. The story of her novel is put in a single day, in twenty- four

    hours in a life of a woman, Clarissa Dalloway. At the beginning of the

    novel we learn that Mrs. Dalloway is to give a party, and we see her

    preparing for it. As she moves about London shopping, every

    encounter she has produces a response colored by the whole texture of

    her earlier experience, so that, as we follow her stream of

    consciousness we learn all of her previous history, or all that matters.

    She incessantly shifts focus from the mind of one character to another,

    enabling her readers to receive a myriad impressions from a variety

    of different angles. From all these intensely personal perspectives, the

    narrative effectively achieves objectivity and illuminates the

    possibilities of communication. In her review of Dorothy Richardsons

    work The Tunnel, Woolf says:

    10ibid. p.5


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    The method, if triumphant, should make us feel ourselves

    seated at the center of another mind, and, accordingly to the artistic

    gift of the writer, we should perceive in the helter- skelter of flying

    fragments some unity, significance or design.

    For Mrs. Woolf, Life is not a series of gig lamps

    symmetrically arranged, life is a luminous halo, a semi- transparent

    envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the


    Although she writes about a single day in her heroines life, we

    learn not only about that single day, but through Clarissas memory,

    about her past life, what it was like, then, what it is like at the moment,

    and finally, what it is to be sometimes in the future. Her technique is

    brilliant, exquisite, fantastic. She herself explains it in the following


    Examine for a moment an ordinary mind of an ordinary

    day. The mind receives myriad impressions- trivial, fantastic,

    evanescent, or engraved with the sharpest of steel. From all

    sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms,

    and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of

    Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the

    11Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1996, p.69


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    moment of importance came not here but there, so that, if a

    writer were a free man and not a slave, if he must, if he could

    base his work upon feeling and not upon conviction, there

    would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or

    catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single

    button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it .12

    We learn about Clarissa Dalloway not only from her own

    thoughts, but from thoughts of all other characters, from their inner

    monologues, from their thinking about past and present. We also learn

    about themselves. It is incredible how Virginia Woolf brings all those

    people into connection, how we see them from many different points

    of view. For example, when Peter Walsh is sitting on a bench in

    Regents Park and sees a little girl, who has been picking up pebbles

    to add to the pebble collection which she and her brother were making

    on the nursery mantelpiece, plumped her handful down on the nurses

    knee and scudded off again full tilt into a ladys legs. in the next

    paragraph we realize that a lady is actually Lucrecia Warren Smith

    when the child ran full tilt into her, fell flat, and burst out crying.

    And then, the sense of time- with how extraordinary skillfulness

    Virginia Woolf deals with the sense of time. Chiming clocks mark the

    12Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1996, Preface, p.7


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    passing of the actual day while the past impinges constantly on the

    thoughts of the protagonists so that in a very few pages an entire

    lifetime is spanned. Different people hear Big Ben striking the hour,

    and they are in different places, and different things are happening to

    them. At that very moment- while the leaden circles dissolve in the

    air. For example It was precisely twelve oclock; twelve by Big

    Ben; whose stroke was wafted over the northern part of London; blent

    with that of other clocks, mixed in a thin ethereal way with clouds and

    wisps of smoke and died up there among the seagulls- twelve oclock

    struck as Clarissa Dalloway laid her green dress on her bed, and the

    Warren Smiths walked down Harley Street.13

    Or, for example, how Mrs. Woolf deals with memories

    different people remembering same events from their lives the events

    they experienced together. At the beginning of the novel when

    Clarissa calls to her memory that incident of Sally Seton when she

    forgot her sponge, and ran along the passage naked. That grim old

    housemaid, Ellen Atkins, went about grumbling- Suppose any of the

    gentlemen had seen? Indeed she did shock people. ( And that same

    old housemaid, Ellen Atkins, from Bourton, we see again at Clarissas

    party) ; and then, at Clarissas party, Sally Seton remembers that same

    13Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1996, p.57


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    incident- Never should she forget running along the passage naked,

    and being sent for by Miss Parry!

    Or, one more example, - the old lady whom Clarissa sees in the

    room opposite her house, at that crucial moment, when she heard

    about the young man killing himself, that old lady actually appears

    before that- at one point earlier in the novel we also see Clarissa

    watching her, and thinking about her. So, everything in the novel is

    connected, and almost every character is connected somehow to every

    other character, not to mention the great parallelism between Clarissa

    and Septimus Warren Smith.

    Rejecting realistic approach to life as not being realistic enough,

    Virginia Woolf finds herself facing a problem what reality really is. In

    searching for reality, for the essentials of life, she comes to the

    conclusion that we experience the true reality in those moments that

    flesh through our conscience and enlighten our whole innerselves and

    the outer world, like a lightning. Those moments she calls moments

    of vision, and they are similar to Joyces epiphanies.

    This moment of vision for Clarissa Dalloway is when she

    hears about Septimus suicide. For a second, she consents to what he

    did, she even envies him, because, Death was defiance. Death was an


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    attempt to communicate, people feeling the impossibility of reaching

    the center which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart;

    rapture faded; one was alone. There was embrace in death 14 , but

    then, seeing through her bedroom window the old lady undressing

    herself, and going to bed as if nothing happened, she realized that life

    goes on, and that her life, as it is, deserves to be lived. She is happy.

    14ibid. p.121


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    1. Joyce, J., A Portrait of The Artist as an Young Man,Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Edition, 1992.

    2. Woolf, V., Mrs. Dalloway, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth

    Editions, 1996.

    3. Bihalji, O. M., Graditelji moderne misli u literaturi i

    umetnosti, Beograd, Prosveta, 1965, p.32

    4. Daiches, D., A Critical History of English Literature,

    London, Secker & Warburg, 1963., vol. IV, p.p.188, 196

    5. James, H., The Art of Fiction, in Major Writers of

    America, New York, 1962., vol. II, p.p.255,257

    6. Markovic, V., Engleski roman XX veka, Beograd,Naucna knjiga, 1980., v. I

    7. Markovic, V., Podeljena licnost, Beograd, Nolit, 1972.

    8. Vidan, I., Romani struje svijesti, Zagreb, Skolska knjiga,